214. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State 1

4535. Subject: Ball-Sisco Trip-Meeting with Eshkol.


After handing President’s letter2 to Prime Minister Eshkol, Ball said he had come to Jerusalem to get insight into Middle Eastern problems, to get Prime Minister’s views first hand and to convey USG views.3 Ball said he wished make clear that USG hopes to encourage movement toward contractual settlement of permanent nature and that we are not supporting makeshift solution.

Ball said he and colleagues had just come from useful discussion with Foreign Minister Eban and now have better appreciation of GOI position and intentions. Particularly gratified and encouraged to learn both of GOI move to have Jarring probe UAR specifically on nature of peace and contractual arrangement and of Israeli action in testing possibility of agreement with Jordanians. Ball said he wished repeat what he had told FonMin that GOI should be alert to danger of appearing to take negative stance thus creating impression it not interested in reaching settlement while Arab governments gave appearance being ready to move forward.

In course of an hour long discursive and passionate exposition Prime Minister said he wanted us to know basic Israeli concerns. He said problem for him is that he has too complete confidence in what Nasser says. He was not referring to contradictory statements by Nasser and Hussein re their alleged desire for peace but to continuing and repeated statements of Arab intention to destroy Israel. This Eshkol said is Nasser’s true aim and those who refuse to believe him are making same mistake as those in Europe before World War II who refused give credence to Hitler’s statements re his intention destroy Jewish people. Eshkol cited Heykal article calling for gradual breaking up and destruction Israel regardless of cost in blood to Arabs. Over the years Israelis have come to know Nasser as an actor who tells all who speak to him what he knows they want to hear, though his basic intention always remains Israel’s destruction. By contrast Eshkol said he did not [Page 420] think USSR wants Israel’s destruction if only because it does not want to be identified in history with Nazi Germany.
Prime Minister stressed that question for Israel is one of survival. Israel had not wanted war. Eshkol recalled GOI had waited three weeks but finally it became clear there no other way out. PriMin noted that even then he had sent message to Hussein stating GOI desire avoid hostilities with Jordan. Israel won war but in process learned it cannot rely on international guarantees to protect its security. Now it cannot give away gains of victory for nothing. Government which did so could not survive. Eshkol pointed to 1957 guarantees re free navigation in Straits of Tiran and King Hussein’s promise he would not allow tanks he received from US be deployed west of Jordan River. Prime Minister said day will come when he will have to bring Israeli Cabinet to a decision re steps to be taken toward a settlement. This could break up present coalition. He not afraid to work with a smaller cabinet, as before Six-Day War, but he cannot go before Cabinet and people empty handed. Eshkol asked USG sympathy and understanding of his problems in this regard.
Ball expressed appreciation for Prime Minister’s exposition. The point he wished to emphasize was following: although USG and GOI were agreed on need for a settlement that will ensure lasting peace, he had emphasized to GOI that they were in his view putting too much weight on procedural requirements.

Ball said that USG shares Prime Minister’s skepticism regarding Nasser. Problem GOI faces is to make sure of all possible processes for sharpening issues through instrumentality of Jarring Mission and otherwise so that no one can accuse GOI of lacking will to find final settlement.

Ball said there are two issues that need discussion. First, the nature of the ultimate peace settlement and its expression in adequate structural terms.4 On this, there is no difference in approach between the GOI and the USG. Second, the procedure by which peace could be achieved. On this there is some difference in approach.

Ball conceded that it was probable an ultimate peace settlement could be achieved only after a bilateral Arab-Israeli negotiation but this should not be a doctrinal sticking point.GOI should exhaust every pragmatic opportunity to sharpen issues through Jarring Mission and other means and should not rigidly insist that bilateral negotiations be a condition precedent to any progress.
Ball indicated USG did not much care how GOI publicly described its probings through Jarring Mission or other mechanisms. It need not say that those probings constituted negotiations; it could use the word clarification or any other word it preferred. The important point was that GOI should not appear as impaled on a procedural issue; it should stress its willingness to get on with a solution—while defining the requirements of the solution—but should not dig itself in on the negative point that no progress was possible without a direct bilateral negotiation. Otherwise it would be vulnerable to the accusation that it did not really want a settlement and would find itself increasingly isolated.
Ball stressed he making foregoing points because Israel and US fundamentally working for same objective of lasting peace. Ball said he knows Israelis are pragmatic people and is confident their ability move forward toward solution of area’s problems.
Eshkol’s response to Ball’s statement was curious. He did not challenge Ball frontally but indicated a certain measure of private agreement while suggesting that his own problem was with the Knesset.
Discussion of Israeli request for Phantom aircraft which raised at Eshkol’s initiative, and broke no new grounds will be reported on Ball’s return to US.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, UN 7. Secret; Priority;Exdis. Repeated to USUN and to Beirut and Amman for Ball and Sisco.
  2. See Document 212.
  3. This meeting took place on the morning of July 15. Ball and Sisco also met with Defense Minister Dayan on July 16, who discussed Israeli concern about the danger of war with the Arabs. (Telegram 11105 from Beirut, July 18; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, UN 7)
  4. Ambassador Ball subsequently revised this sentence to read: “First, the need for an agreed peace settlement and its expression in contractual terms.” (Telegram 11144 from Beirut, July 18; ibid.)